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Lecture of HE Dr. Mohammad Javad ZARIF: “Fighting Terrorism and Extremism”

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His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Javad ZARIF, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran paid an official visit to Romania on 9th November 2016. The agenda included meetings with the Romanian counterpart and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, enabling consultancy groups and facilitating visa services. His Excellency also had on the agenda meeting the President of Romania, the Prime-Minister of Romania and the President of the Chamber of Deputies.

His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Javad ZARIF delivered a lecture entitled “Fighting Terrorism and Extremism” at the Romanian Diplomatic Institute, on the same day. MEPEI had the honor to engage into the planning of this event.

You can find below the most salient aspects of the speech delivered by His Excellency.

Extremism-terrorism is a global problem, being a global problem it has global roots. We should not use the term “global roots” as a euphemism that gets us distracted from the wide range of the issue. We need a global approach to address this complex issue. We should not abandon tackling the issue on the ground, but fighting the terrorism on the ground is just one aspect. We should recognize a comprehensive approach to tackle terrorism. We should get into the details of the phenomenon, otherwise it will get more followers, more recruits. Only by showing death and destruction it attracts new followers. It is equally important to identify the sources of terrorism. It is easy for the Middle East to cast the blame on the West, while it is even easier for the West to blame the Middle East for it. But in order to go further, it is important to end the blame game. We should avoid diversions from the true path of fighting terrorism. There is a belief that democracies do not fight each other and that terrorism is a product of dictatorship (partially true). But how come a person born and raised in France, or in England, being a native of these countries would behead someone in Syria? This is how we realize it is not a product of dictatorship or religion. We should analyze all angles in order to recognize the broad dimension of the phenomenon.

What does give rise to terrorism? In particular, what can determine someone born and raised in France or England or somewhere in the West to become a terrorist? What can determine someone from Saudi Arabia, Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East to become a terrorist?

A common threat is the idea of marginalization and being hopeless, feeling without any possibilities. It is a social phenomenon linked with deprival, alienation and lack of perspectives. We should not blame only the West for this.

However, the domain that needs examination is the foreign invasion and occupation that we are familiarized with it in the Middle East for the last 60-70 years. There are persons who never see their place of origin, they are born, live and die in the refugee camps.

Moreover USA having the impression to have won the Cold War, even though the Soviet Union collapsed from within, has fueled the feeling that the USA has the world supremacy. They institutionalized this idea and went on military adventures abroad almost on an annual basis- Somalia, Libya, repeated attacks in Iraq, Kosovo and so on.

In addition, to get a 14 year old to kill, you need a lot of brain-washing. We do not speak of an isolated group of fanatics, but they have a lot of people prepared to blow themselves in a suicide bombing each day in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. We witness a system that has in place communication tools and brain-washing techniques.

As for the regional problems, the most obvious are: unemployment, lack of economic growth, social problems and frustration. But also these aspects do no offer all the answers. Some of the suicide bombers come from affluent countries or affluent background.

Unfortunately there is also an ideology based on hatred, bias and rejection of the other. People of the West speak about tolerance. Tolerance is the minimum required for living together. 1400 years ago, in a harsher context to non-believers, in the Koran there was mention of „al kafiroun” (those who reject/ those who cover the truth-literally from Arabic). Al kafiroun are not the Christians and Jews, the other monotheist believers (People of the Book). Islam holds the principle: „You follow your religion, I am following mine”- this is the Islamic tenet. But there is a reductionist belief, spread after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, an antithesis of the Revolution. This is the Wahhabi thinking that infiltrated the mosques around the world, through petro-dollars. We called it takfirist because it is anti-Islamic. The Wahhabi doctrine rejects the others, ex-communicate those who do not believe in the same they do (to use a Christian terminology). The combination of frustration, alienation, lack of economic opportunities combined with an ideology manifested politically gives rise to extremism and barbaric violence.

Also there is the zero sum game mentality that prolongs conflicts. In our region, everyone wants to gain all the benefits, while the other will suffer a major defeat. A solution to the problems would be addressing the fundamental tensions in the society and changing mentalities (including the zero sum games). I would be idealistic if I would propose to address all sides of the problems, but we should at least annihilate the hotbeds of extremism in Syria and Yemen. Only the extremists are benefitting from these crises. They might lose territories, but they accumulate more hatred and get more followers. If we change the zero sum game, we would reach positive results.

The mistakes that have been committed from the 1980s until now brought us to this situation of extreme gravity. The sooner we start to take action, the sooner we witness better results.

If we want to talk about the future of Syria, we need to delegate power, power should not be concentrated in the hands of one person only. This approach equals losing or winning the whole issue at stake. Once you start with this approach, you continue this approach. If the Syrians would adopt a new approach, the world would be learning from them. In Syria we need that all stakeholders involved work for a solution and not discussing the same details all over again. Some parties have a pre-condition: a person should leave. The great powers framed this condition and they are not giving up on it. If we could solve this, we can reach a political solution to the crisis. Unfortunately some parties work only with veto.

For diplomats it is difficult to recognize that the state lost monopoly on the economy, public information, but also on security. Nowadays the non-state actors can both damage and supply security. But it is important to acknoweledge the reality. Recognizing the new face of the international system will brings us to collaboration.

 

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